Air Force Command, CAA censured for 2018 F-16 crash

02/24/2020 05:58 PM
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Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) The Control Yuan, Taiwan's government agency watchdog, censured the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and the Air Force Command on Monday for their roles in an F-16 crash in New Taipei in 2018 and required them to make improvements.

In a statement, the Control Yuan said its decision was based on the conclusions of an investigative report approved by its Committee on National Defense and Intelligence Affairs on Feb. 20 that looked into the accident that occurred in Rueifang District on June 4, 2018.

Half an hour after taking off from Hualien Air Base to take part in a major annual drill, pilot Wu Yen-ting's (吳彥霆) single-seat F-16 aircraft collided with Wufen Mountain, apparently because of "human error" by Air Force and civilian flight controllers, the report said.

The Control Yuan blamed the crash on negligence and lax discipline at the Air Operations Center under the Air Force Command after finding that five of the officers involved were not fully prepared for the mission in advance and did not carry out the mission based on standard procedures due to a lack of training.

Citing the report, the watchdog body said the accident occurred after people in the Air Operations Center asked it to veer off its original course when it was in the air, which went against standard procedures.

It also ordered the plane to maintain an altitude of 2,000 feet even as the pilot reported heavy clouds rather than having the aircraft climb to a safer altitude, in part because the center's crew was not properly trained in using a ground proximity warning system, the Control Yuan said.

The Taipei Songshan Airport air control tower, which is supervised by the CAA, was also censured by the Control Yuan for failing to observe air traffic management procedures, as the drill required close coordination between civilian and Air Force air traffic controllers.

According to the report, the Taipei control tower should have given priority to the F-16 jet as it approached Keelung on Taiwan's northeastern coast.

But the tower had entered the wrong coordinates for its flight control area that day and directed the military plane based on that inaccurate information.

It also did not give priority "air traffic service" to the F-16 as is required under standard procedures. Instead, it asked the Air Operations Center to have the F-16 veer east, though it did allow the plane to climb above 2,000 feet.

Knowing that a passenger plane was about to take off from Songshan Airport, the Air Operations Center asked the F-16 to maintain its altitude.

By the time the passenger jet had passed Keelung and the center asked the F-16 to increase its altitude, it was too late, the Control Yuan said.

These issues indicated that the Air Operations Center and the Taipei airport air traffic control tower were both responsible for the crash, and the two agencies need to make improvements to address the problems, the Control Yuan concluded.

The censure came a week after the government watchdog body on Feb. 19 impeached five Air Operations Center officers -- Shih Ching-nien (史青年), Lai Wen-sheng (賴文生), Lu I-shun (盧易舜), Chuang Chun-yuan (莊春源) and Ou Chien-fei (區劍飛) -- who were found to be primarily responsible for the incident.

(By Flor Wang and Wang Cheng-chung)

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